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How to build traffic to your author website

In a recent edition of Dragon’s Den, one of the dragons declared that you couldn’t launch a website successfully with a budget of less than £100,000. That may be true of big price comparison sites, but it certainly doesn’t apply to author websites. Here are seven ways to promote your site that are easy, effective and completely free.

Email signatures
An email signature is a piece of text that’s automatically added to the end of all your emails. Make sure you put a link to your site in yours so every message you send is helping with your promotion. Continue reading

Ten tips for finding a good ghostwriter

Advice from top ghostwriter, Andrew Crofts

Picture of Andrew Crofts

Photo from Petteri Kokkonen

Ten years ago virtually no-one outside the publishing industry knew that ghostwriters existed. Thanks to Robert Harris’s bestseller, The Ghost, (and the subsequent film starring Ewan McGregor), and thanks to the openness of celebrities like Katie Price, Keith Richards and the Beckhams, a lot of people now know that we exist, but there is still a great deal of confusion about what it is we actually do.

I receive two or three emails or phone calls a day from people who think they might need a ghostwriter, either for fiction or non-fiction, but who aren’t quite sure how the system works. So here are ten tips on finding a good ghostwriter. Continue reading

Planning your non-fiction book

Although some people manage to write novels without advance planning, that approach doesn’t work so well for non-fiction. You need to organise your thoughts before you start writing or you may end up with a jumble of facts that no one wants to read.

Step 1: Choose your subject
The usual advice to authors is “write what you know”, but I’ve successfully written books about topics I knew very little about initially. So I’m amending that advice to say “write what interests you”.  Then your enthusiasm will show in your book and be passed on to your readers.

Once you have decided on a possible subject, do a search on Amazon or Google to find the books that will be competing with yours. How will yours be different and/or better? Can you find a different angle or aim at a different audience. Which brings us to… Continue reading

Search Engine Optimisation – is it worth paying for?

If you have a website, and quite often if you don’t, you are sure to receive emails offering you search engine optimisation (SEO). These services vary in price, but they all cost money you can ill afford. But there is plenty you can do to boost your position in searches which don’t cost you anything.

To understand how to get good rankings on search engines, put yourself in Google’s shoes. Their reputation is based on providing good search results – useful sites that provide the information searchers want. So what Google is looking for is good, relevant content and that is what pushes you up the rankings. As a result, the best way to improve your chances of showing up in searches is to provide good content and make it easy for search engines to find you.

Continue reading

What editors do

An editor works with you to make sure your book is as good as it can possibly be, but there are different types of editing that come in at different stages of your book’s creation.

Structural editing
As the name suggests, a structural editor gives you feedback on the structure of your book. For fiction, this can include plot, pacing and characterisation while, for non-fiction, the editor can look at the way you have organised the material and the clarity of your information. For both types of book, they can also look at the way you use language and how suitable that is for your readership. Continue reading

10 mistakes to avoid on your author website

Your author website will be much more effective if you avoid these mistakes.

1: Making it hard for visitors to find their way around the site
If you don’t provide a clear way for visitors to get around your site, they won’t find many of your pages. What you need is a clear navigation on each page that lists the main links along the top of the page or down the left hand side where people expect to see them.  To work well, they need to be in the same order in the same place on every page to avoid confusing your visitors or leaving them stranded.

2: Using confusing navigation links
Although you might enjoy thinking up imaginative names for your navigation links, you risk confusing your visitors. They might not realise that “Shelf Space“ is your Books section,  “Inside Secrets” means  “About Me” and “Out and About” contains information on your speaking events. The situation gets even worse if you decide to use pictures instead of words.  Remember that the visitors to your site are just one click away from going elsewhere, and that’s what they will do if you ask them to play a guessing game in order to find their way around. Continue reading

Planning your author website

This is the second in a series of posts about author websites. If you have never had a website before, you may want to read Author websites – the basics first.

Before you or your web designer start to create your site, you need to plan what will be in it. The bare minimum is

  • A page about you
  • A page about your books.
  • Contact details, either on a separate page or as a clickable link on the other pages.

Of course, we’re talking about web pages here which can be as long or as short as you like. In theory, you could put the whole of War and Peace on one page, but no one would be likely to read it.

You may also like to have

  • A blog
  • Information about speaking events
  • Extra book pages if you’ve written several books or write in different genres
  • Sample chapters
  • Information about the topics you write about. This is especially useful if you write non-fiction as it can help establish you as an expert in your field.

So let’s look at all of those in more detail. Continue reading

Author websites – the basics

An author website is an essential part of your marketing campaign. It makes it easy for readers and reviewers to find you online and gives you somewhere to send people for information about you and your books. So how can you make your site as effective as possible without spending a fortune. Continue reading

Funding your book

Self-publishing need not cost a fortune but, if you want to produce something worthwhile, you will have to spend something. But it’s important to remember the golden rule:

Never spend money self-publishing than you can’t afford to lose.

You can never be sure in advance how many copies you will sell so publishing is always a gamble. Even the big traditional publishers get it wrong sometime so you might too.

Funding the book from your savings
That’s by far the safest route. Decide how much you can afford to spend, set that as your budget and stick to it. If you can’t afford to do exactly what you had in mind, you may need to save a bit longer. Alternatively, you can adapt your plans to suit your budget.- perhaps by starting with an ebook as that’s the cheapest option and adding a print edition later when you can afford to.

This involves getting a lot of people to invest a small amount of money in your project, usually through one of the crowdfunding websites available online. I haven’t tried any of them  but I have heard of authors who have used the system successfully. You usually offer something in return for the investment and scale the gift to fit the size of the donation. So you might give a free epub to people who give a little, a free print book to people who give a bit more and a signed, free book to people who give even more.  Although crowdfunding seems like an exciting new development, it’s a new form of what used to be called subscription publishing where publishers funded a print run by selling copies in advance.

Borrowing the money
This is a a bad idea, especially if you use a bank, credit card or payday loan company that charges high interest rates. It’s an even worse idea if you put up your house or some other asset as security. You can’t tell in advance how many copies you will sell and, even if your book is successful in the long-term, you can’t guarantee that the money will come in fast enough to cover the repayments and the interest.

Which neatly brings us back to that Golden Rule which is worth repeating.

Never spend money self-publishing that you can’t afford to lose.

Diana Kimpton


FAQ for new self-publishers

Do I have to use a self-publishing company?
No. In fact, you will have more control and will probably spend less money if you don’t. But that doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. (more info)

A publisher has said they will publish my book if I pay them. Is this self-publishing?
No, it’s subsidy publishing and it’s usually not a good idea. The publisher has all the control and keeps most of the profits, while you pay the costs and run the risks. With real self-publishing, you still run the risk but you have all the control and all the profits. You also have control of the costs and may well spend less money. (more info)

How much does self-publishing cost?
That’s like asking someone how long is a piece of string. The cost depends on lots of factors but it can be anything from zero to several thousand pounds.  Decide how much you can afford to spend before you start, and make sure you stick to your budget. (more info)

How many copies will I sell?
No one knows. Even traditional publishers take a gamble every time they publish a book, and they sometimes get their estimates completely wrong.  It’s safest to do your costings on the basis of fairly low sales (hundreds rather than thousands). That way, if you’re wrong, you’ll get a pleasant surprise rather than a nasty shock.

Will my self-published book make me rich?
That’s unlikely and it would still be unlikely if it was traditionally published. Most authors don’t earn a living from their books, and very few earn as much as JK Rowling. But you will earn more per book if you self-publish, and your book will stay on sale for as long as you wish so that income can go on for a long time.

What’s the single most important thing I need to do to be a successful self-publisher?
Write a good book. If you don’t, it won’t get the word-of-mouth recommendations that are vital to driving sales.

What’s the second most important thing?
Produce a high quality book. Make sure it’s laid out well without any typos or punctuation errors and give it a good cover. Contrary to the popular saying, everyone judges a book by its cover. So an amateurish cover suggests it’s an amateurish book.

Do I need an editor?
Yes. You are too close to your own writing to judge it successfully. An editor will come to your book with a fresh eye and spot issues and mistakes you have overlooked. But you need to have the right editor – one who is in tune with what you are writing – and one of the many advantages of self-publishing is being able to choose your own editor.

What’s an ISBN and do I need one?
An ISBN is a unique number given to a specific edition a book which helps bookshops and wholesalers identify it on computer systems. You don’t have to have one, but you’ll need one to sell print books through bookshops and some ebook stores want you to have one too. (more info)

How can I protect my ebook from being pirated?
The standard advice is to put DRM (digital rights management) on the book, but DRM doesn’t work because it’s so easy to remove. So I think it’s sensible not to worry too much about piracy. Most readers will prefer to buy an inexpensive, virus-free version of your book from a reputable site rather than go to a dodgy piracy site and download a marginally cheaper or free version that might contain viruses. Anyway, those that do choose the pirated version probably wouldn’t have bought the legitimate version anyway so you haven’t lost any sales and may even gain word-of-mouth recommendation. (more info on DRM)

Diana Kimpton